All Sins Are Not Created Equal

Why are all sins equal? Cursing is a sin, but it isn’t pedophilia.

Questions: Is cursing as wrong as adultery? Is lusting the same as committing the act? At what point do we stop associating with those who commit more heinous sins?

All sin is a falling short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Remember that God’s righteousness—perfection—is an absolute.

Broadly speaking, all sins are equal before God in that all sins are by definition “unrighteous” (not His righteousness) and “imperfect.” (not His perfection)

All things less than holy (the perfectly righteous nature of God) fall into the category of unholy.

We can picture man’s efforts to attain righteousness as a group of people trying to jump a chasm. Some get a running start; some try to pole vault; others flap their arms on the way across—but none of them reach the other side.

It doesn’t matter if they fall short by two inches, two yards, or two miles—they all plunge downward.

In that way, all sins are the same compared to God; it doesn’t really matter how short we fall. We all fall.

Even Jesus indicated that, by their nature, all sins are the same compared to God.

In His Sermon on the Mount, the Lord mentioned two “big” sins—murder and adultery—and equated them with unjustified anger and lustful thoughts (Matthew 5:21–22, 27–28).

21 You have heard that it was said to the men of old, You shall not kill, and whoever kills shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court. [Exod. 20:13; Deut. 5:17; 16:18.]

22 But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice (enmity of heart) against him shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court; and whoever speaks contemptuously and insultingly to his brother shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You cursed fool!’ [You empty-headed idiot!] shall be liable to and unable to escape the hell (Gehenna) of fire.[1]

27 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ [Exod. 20:14; Deut. 5:18.]

28 But I say to you that everyone who so much as looks at a woman with evil desire for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. [2]

Anger, murder, lust, and adultery are all sins, but are they equal in their cruelty?

Now that we’ve established the general rule that all sins are equal to God by their nature, we can add some refinements.

Although lust and adultery are both sinful, that does not mean they are equal in every respect. Having lust in one’s heart will have consequences in this world, but those consequences will not be as severe as committing the physical act of adultery.

The same is true with harboring a grudge versus actually committing murder. Coveting has a lesser effect than thieving.

Sin is sin, but not all sin bears the same penalties in this world. In that sense, some sins are worse than others.

Scripture singles out sexual sin as having worse consequences than other types of sin: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).

Why so?

In this passage, immorality is considered apart from other sins such as dishonesty, pride, envy, etc.

All sin will negatively affect the mind and soul of a person, but sexual immorality can immediately and directly affect one’s body. The destruction wrought by sexual immorality will have a physical impact.

The extended warning against sexual sin in Proverbs 6 contains this warning: “A man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself” (verse 32).

At the same time, even in the final judgment, there seem to be degrees of punishment among the “dogs”: “Someone who does not know [the master’s will], and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly” (Luke 12:48, NLT). So not all sins carry the same weight of punishment. Let’s take another translation of this text.

48 But he who did not know and did things worthy of a beating shall be beaten with few [lashes]. For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required; and of him to whom men entrust much, they will require and demand all the more. [Num. 15:29, 30; Deut. 25:2, 3.][3]

Those who fail to do their duty can expect punishment. More responsibility, and thus more severe punishment, however, will come to those who knew what [the] master wanted but did not do it.

Each person is responsible to seek out God’s will and to obey; however, God will demand more from those who have been given many gifts and entrusted with much responsibility for the kingdom.

There is one other way in which all sins are equal in God’s eyes: all sins, no matter how “big” or “small,” can be forgiven in Christ.

Scripture says that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20). No one can out-sin God’s grace. We are all equally sinful before God.

But, in Christ, we are made righteous. We are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood” (Romans 3:24–25).

So, before God’s presence, all sins fall short of God’s holiness and are subject to His penalty.

But before men, every sin is judged by the impact that it makes on oneself and those around them.

Sin can be visualized as a terminal poison or virus. Depending on how much of it I have absorbed, it shall determine how soon I die and the manner of my death. But in the end, I still die. (Sin’s penalty)

Christ first neutralizes the impact of the poison or virus in our lives if we take His offer (medicine). But the poison or virus is still in our system, and we continue to still absorb more poison/the virus spreads. (Sin’s presence)

How much more poison we absorb or how virulent the virus determines how much we suffer from power of the poison or virus. (Sin’s power)

What we do not realize is we become carriers of the poison/virus and infect those around us if do not seek Christ’s offer and lean on His treatment.

In the end, Christ will free us of this poison by giving us a new body that does not carry the poison. But the poison still kills our present body. No exceptions.

[1] The Amplified Bible (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1987), Mt 5:21–22.

[2] The Amplified Bible (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1987), Mt 5:27–28.

[3] The Amplified Bible (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1987), Lk 12:46–48.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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